As many of you know, at 5:00am on Friday, January 16th, I was checking in at Vancouver International Airport to fly off and set my life up in New York for the next six months for Seth Godin’s Alternative MBA.
This message is to say that I’m not in NYC, I never actually took-off and I’ll be staying in Vancouver for a while.
Yes, everything was planned for New York and I was ready to go - from quitting my job and sub-leasing my apartment in Vancouver to setting up a US bank account, purchasing travel insurance and arranging kitchen utensils with my wonderful to-be roommate’s Susan and Kevin Lewis - and as I was about to board my plane, which was my final step to getting to NY, I was denied admission at the US border.
After six physically and mentally exhausting hours in customs, the officers graciously told me that I would not be approved for any visa for the following three reasons:
The Alt-MBA was not an accredited program and the program was not offered by an accredited institution.
I could not be classified into any particular visa category; in technical terms, I was not a student, an employee or a "trainee".
- Although I was in the best situation to pick-up and move my life to New York, I was also in the worst possible situation in the eyes of US Immigration. Because I quit my job to pursue the program and I don’t have any assets in Canada (no car, no house), I have no evidence to show reason for my return to Canada and was thus considered an intended immigrant.
Based on the officers' feedback, I quickly realized that it would probably take far too long for me to determine which visa I could qualify for, to get all of the proper documentation together and to re-apply for entry. Yes, I could still try to go on a 3-month “vacation” but I did not want to spend my time living, working and studying in the program worrying about the fact that I was doing so illegally.
With that said though, I did do a serious evaluation of the situation and I must say, in a weird, totally unexpected way, I got everything I wanted. And this isn’t just me making excuses for the way things have turned out. What did I want from the program?
To go to NYC: Well, I got to go to the city! I really would love to live in NYC, but the city will always be there waiting for me. I will make it there one day and it will be even better when I have the means to truly enjoy it for all it is.
To meet and work with Seth Godin: Oddly enough, this was a goal I had written in my moleskine back in the summer when I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life, and in some weird twist of fate, I was given that opportunity. I did meet Seth and he is a truly wonderful and generous man that I respect even more than I did before. I do hope I will have another opportunity to work with him in the future - whether it be as an intern or a colleague - but for now, I am honoured to say I at least had the chance.
- To learn and work with some truly incredible individuals: I can’t say that I’m not disappointed with the fact that I’ll be missing out on the working and learning time with the individuals that were accepted into the Alt-MBA. I really hope I will be able to stay in touch with them into the future, but I am also very lucky to have many amazing people in my life already, especially here in Vancouver. I have so much I can learn from them and I can’t wait to see what remarkable things we can make happen.
Now those three things are only the perks to the program, but the real honest reason I applied for the program was that I wanted an excuse to drop everything and figure it out on my own. I wanted an excuse to get out of the basement suite I’ve been living in for almost three years. Although I was given a fantastic opportunity that was perfect for the fall, I needed an excuse to leave my position at the Arts Club (it simply wasn’t the position for me, not to mention Sheila Kearney wound up in my place and she is a wonderful, extremely qualified, inspiring woman who will do great things for the company). Finally, I wanted an excuse to go figure it out on my own and what better chance to figure it out on my own then when my plans are completely wiped out and I’m left with an entirely blank canvas.
These last six weeks (wow, that’s it?!) have been such an incredible ride. I was given insights I never would have seen before. I connected with people I haven’t been in touch with for years and with others that I didn’t know were watching what I was doing. I was given the chance to connect with new individuals around the world who will inspire and teach me for years to come and for whom I hope I can do the same. I got to see New York City and I got to meet Seth! And most importantly, my passion for YWiB and my life in Vancouver was re-ignited, and I have an opportunity to honestly create the life that I want to live.
Yes, my life will be in flux for the next while as I figure out exactly what I want that life to be, but I am extremely excited about figuring that out. And I hope that those who do truly care for me can support me in this decision to stay in Vancouver. I’m excited to see what comes of the Alt-MBA, of YWiB, of the UBC Future Alumni Council, and of all those things that have yet to be determined but will surely come about soon.
And to my Alt-MBA friends (both the crew who will be studying with the Seth and those on the Alt-MBA Ning group), if you’re ever in Vancouver, please call me up. I’m sure we’ll have much to chat and scheme about!
Thank you for your support and for believing in me, for the introductions and the goodbye celebrations, for all your offers of help to get me to New York and well, for just everything. I will be eternally thankful for this opportunity - it was worth more than I could have ever expected.
Truly, thank you.
All my very best,
P.S. how's that for serendipity?!